I am grateful to my mom who taught me to be an assertive advocate to make a positive change for people with disabilities. The next time you go to a movie theater, look around and see where you might watch the movie from a wheelchair. I am proud that my mom and I were instrumental in making changes in several of our local movie theaters by breaking down barriers for me and others with disabilities.
When I was twelve, we went to see an Indiana Jones film at a local movie theater. I was in a push-type stroller and there was no handicapped seating. This is the type of seating where chairs have been removed leaving spaces to accommodate wheelchairs. I had to sit in my stroller at the end of a row, so extended into the aisle. However, there was enough room for people to walk by me. The movie was about 30 minutes in when an older couple walked in and one of them slightly bumped into the handle of my stroller. They immediately left the theater to complain to the manager. The manager came in and told us I was a fire hazard and had to leave the theater. My mom became furious at this and proceeded to pursue a lawyer to take the situation to the theater’s corporate office. We were not looking for any kind of monetary compensation. What we wanted and achieved was for the theater company to establish accessible seating in all of their multiplex theaters. In addition, they invited me to speak to all of their staff to provide sensitivity training regarding persons with disabilities.
I learned from my mom that many people are not aware of the challenges people with disabilities face every day and that by being assertive in communicating my challenges and ways to make changes, I am not only opening doors of opportunity for myself but for so many others with similar challenges. Ironically, the same accommodations that were made in the movie theater as a result of the response from this older couple, are the same ones that may allow them in later years when they may require the assistance of a wheelchair, to enjoy movies without barriers and discrimination that I faced. As a person using a wheelchair, I am not looking for special accommodations; I just want to be able to enjoy the same things as everyone else, especially a great movie.